MOSCOW (NWN) — Scores of opposition supporters in Kyrgyzstan rallied on Monday to challenge the results of a parliamentary election won by parties loyal to the country’s president.
Sunday’s election comes just a year after a drastic change of government in the former Soviet Central Asian nation that propelled Sadir Zhaparov to the presidency.
With over 97% of the regions counted, the three blocs supporting Zaparov emerged as the top vote-getters, with three other parties trailing behind. Several opposition parties protested the results, accusing officials of vote rigging.
Around 100 of his supporters gathered outside the Central Election Commission’s office demanding recounting of votes.
Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous country of 6.5 million people bordering China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances. It hosts a Russian airport and relies on financial support from Moscow.
Zaparov was serving an 11 1/2-year sentence for kidnapping a regional governor amid a dispute over a gold mine to be freed by stone-pelting supporters challenging the results of the October 2020 parliamentary election.
Last year’s unrest marked the third violent expulsion of the country’s leader in 15 years. Like the rebellions that toppled presidents in 2005 and 2010, the turmoil of 2020 was fueled by clan rivalry shaping the country’s politics.
Following his election in January, Zaparov pushed for a referendum that approved a new constitution that significantly increased the president’s powers at the expense of parliament. It reduced the size of the country’s parliament from 120 to 90 and gave the president the power to appoint judges and heads of law enforcement agencies.
In Sunday’s voting, 54 seats were filled from party lists and the remaining 36 by single-voting races. About 35 percent of the voters cast their vote.
According to the Central Election Commission, the Eta-Zhart (Homeland Kyrgyzstan), Ishenim (Trust) and Yantimak (Accord) blocks received approximately 16%, 13% and 11% of the votes, respectively, in the party lists. All three factions have been loyal to Zhaparov.
The Alliance and Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan) opposition parties won 8% and 7% of the vote, respectively, and the more obscure Yemen Nuru (Beam of Consciousness) got 6%. Several opposition parties missed the 5% limit to make it to Parliament. Their leaders accused the officials of rigging the ballot paper by using the automatic counting system and demanded manual recounting.
A ruckus late on Sunday when the counting of votes ready for opposition parties to hit the threshold was halted and then replaced with different numbers indicating they had missed out. Election officials denied any manipulation and alleged software glitches for the incident.
Zaparov said in a Facebook statement late Sunday that the demand to recount was immediately agreed upon that all ballots must remain on campus until completion.
Tension had risen in the country ahead of the vote, with Zhaparov accusing his political enemies of plotting a rebellion and warning that those who try to perpetrate post-election riots would be prosecuted.